Why Community Group?
When James and I got married, I made it very clear that we would not be joining a community group. We did lots of churchy activities, so I didn’t see a particular need for joining a forced group of People Who Meet on Wednesdays to sit around in a circle and yammer about the Bible and our feelings. After all, we had more important things to do, like “focus on our marriage” and “do real ministry.”
Apparently James didn’t agree with my logic, and insisted that we join a community group at our church. And there began one of the biggest fights in our early days of marriage. At least 2-3 times a week, he would try to convince me to at least try out a group, and I would come back with a staunch no. Absolutely not. Not happening. End of discussion. He would mumble something along the lines of “how did I not know you were this crazy when we were dating”, and the argument would be shelved until it resurfaced again within a week.
About six months in, I got tricked into going to a group when one of my neighbors expressed interest in joining, but wanted to go with someone she knew. I agreed to go just once, introduce her to some people, then duck out once she made friends.
My plan proved to be flawed as James saw this as the golden opportunity to finally get us plugged in. So we went once, and then a second time…and kept coming back. About three months in, I figured it we were going to be committed to this community group thing, we might as well be in charge of it, so we signed up to lead our own group. We recruited our people, cast vision for what we were trying to build, then we launched our first community group. It has been nearly three years since our very first meeting, and through our group, we have seen people get saved, be baptized, be discipled, get married, and have babies. We have also walked with people fighting for their marriages, battling addiction, navigating internal conflict with one another, dealing with loss, and living with depression. Our hearts have been broken watching people walk away from us, our church, and Jesus. Through all the joy and heartache of shepherding this community group, we became family.
So how did I go from the girl who vowed to never waste her time in a community group to a lover and promoter of the whole thing?
I began to see the value in it
What is the value of joining a community group?
I love the large gathering on Sunday mornings, but we all know it’s hard to get know people in that environment. Smaller groups are perfect for building real relationships with real people inside the church.
As anyone who has ever taught anything knows, repetition is key. There is something special about the same recurring meeting with the same group of people, opening up the same Bible, week after week. It is a safe place to land, and a launching pad for go out from.
What’s In It For Me?
We all have the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) Syndrome. A healthy community group can likely provide you depth in your relationship with God, potential best friends, fun camping trips, and cute group pictures to post on Instagram. But even better than that, you may get something better: death to yourself. That starts to look like serving the needs of others before your own, bearing one another’s burdens, praying for the crappy parts of each other’s lives, and loving people in a deep and sacrificial way. I would dare to say that the best part of being in a community group is learning to put others before yourself. (Acts 2:42-46, Galatians 6:2, 1 Peter 4:10)
So my encouragement to you is this: get involved in a community group. It may be awkward right at first, but my hope is that through repetitive investment, it will become one of the most rewarding parts of your life.
Bonus Material: How to be a good Community Group Member
Don’t just show up to community group when you feel like it or it is convenient to you; be there every week, hell or high water. There are always excuses, so kick those to the side, choose commitment up front, and make attendance to your group a priority. Groups flourish when they have committed people. All of us CG shepherds meet and chat about our groups, and I promise you all of our favorite people are those who wouldn’t even dream of missing a Wednesday night gathering. Be that person.
Be a Contributor
We all know you get out as much as you put in, so invest whole-heartedly in your group! Who can you ask to coffee? Can you plan a game night for everyone? Can you text people throughout the week following up on things they shared during group? Who can you invite to join the group? If all else fails, offer to bring snacks! Everyone loves the guy or girl who shows up with brownies.
Be a Unifier
There is bound to be conflict and awkwardness at some point, so decide to be a person of peace, not a person of division. Build the people in your group up, to their faces, as well as behind their backs. Encourage each other. Serve each other. Love one another. Resist the temptation of gossip, slander, and “venting.” Go out of your way to live at peace and harmony with the people in your group.